General Motors

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The announcement this week that an Alabama company plans to build a pipe factory in Flint could help spur further investment in a former General Motors site there.

The 235 acre Buick City site is being marketed by the Racer Trust. The trust was set up to sell off abandoned General Motors properties. American Cast Iron Pipe is the first company to invest in Buick City.

Elliot Laws is with the Racer Trust. He says they’ll be blasting news of American’s plans to build in Flint to other potential investors…

General Motors wants tax incentives to help offset an investment in its Detroit assembly plant.

But some Detroiters say the bankrupt city shouldn’t be handing out subsidies to profitable carmakers.

A small group of protesters circled in front of GM headquarters in downtown Detroit Monday, demanding that the corporation “pay its taxes.”

The Reverend Charles Williams II, who led the protest, said it's not right for GM to look for tax abatements while the city is in federal bankruptcy court, and pensioners face possible cuts.

August was a good month for U.S. automakers.

Nearly all automakers are reporting double-digit sales gains as August shapes up to be another strong month for the industry.

GM

GM announced today that the price of a Chevy Volt will drop by $5,000:

The 2014 model will start at $34,995...

If consumers include federal tax credits ranging from $0-$7,500 (depending on individual tax liability), pricing could start at $27,495.

thecarconnection.com

Analysts are expecting a robust month for auto sales.

Jesse Toprak is an analyst with TrueCar.com.  He says July sales were good across all categories.

“But two extreme segments stand out, we see very high demand for small cars and small SUVS, and a very healthy demand for large pickup trucks,” says Toprak.

Toprak says the increase in pickup sales is being driven by small business owners, and an uptick in home renovations.

General Motors

General Motors is number two in global auto sales so far this year, just behind Toyota, and just in front of Volkswagon.

So why didn't GM make more money than its Dearborn rival, Ford Motor Company, in the second quarter?

Both companies made $1.2 billion, but Ford made that money based on a lower volume of sales.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Governor cuts trip short

Governor Rick Snyder will return early from his trip to Israel today in order to lobby for Medicaid expansion. Snyder will encourage fellow Republicans to pass the legislation. “Today is the last day for lawmakers to pass Medicaid expansion before their two-month summer break,” reports Jake Neher.

Teachers protest education legislation

Michigan teachers rallied in Lansing yesterday to protest legislation that would allow state officials to close struggling school districts.  According to the Associated Press, “the legislation lets the state superintendent and treasurer dissolve a district with 300 to 2,400 students if certain criteria are met.”

General Motors receives high ratings

For the first time ever, General Motors topped the Initial Quality Survey released by automotive tracking firm J.D. Power.  Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports that GM received a better score than any other corporation in the study.  She says "people are reporting very few mechanical problems.  Most automakers have drummed out serious engine and transmission defects from their cars."

This year's vehicle Initial Quality Survey by the business tracking firm J.D Power and Associates is a bit of a stunner.

The survey asks people how many problems they had with their car in the first 90 days of ownership.

The top auto company was GM. 

The company's GMC brand was second only to Porsche.  That's the first time GMC has ranked anywhere near that high in the history of the survey.   Chevy was fifth, also a dramatic rise in the rankings.

GM Media

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced it would sell all its remaining stock in General Motors in 12 to 15 months.

Today, the Treasury is announcing a plan for another big sell-off.

Officials say, "subject to market conditions," they intend to sell 30 million additional shares of GM common stock "in conjunction with GM’s inclusion to the S&P 500 index effective as of the close of trading on June 6, 2013."

If you live in Michigan there’s a good chance you’ll head up north this summer, or maybe west to bask in the sun on Lake Michigan, but if you’re still not sure where to escape this summer, we have some fun tips on hidden vacation gems you are sure to enjoy.

And, Rick Pluta gave us an update on the Mackinac Policy Conference.

And, Daniel Howes shared his insights on how the financial and investing world views the Detroit auto companies.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for our weekly conversation with Daniel Howes, the Business Columnist at the Detroit News.

This week, he focused on the business community in Detroit, where companies like General Motors are trying to give back through programs like the GM Student Corps. From Howe's column:

By itself, the pilot program unveiled in the Wintergarden of GM’s Renaissance Center, isn’t front-page news in a city bursting with the good, the bad and the financially ugly on a weekly basis. What GM Student Corps signifies, however, is another example of a key player in the business community seeing a communal need and moving to fill it, quickly.

He joined us today to discuss the business in Detroit as well as the health of the auto industry.

Listen to the full interview above.

Car companies closed a lot of North American factories in the past ten years as the auto industry restructured.

That has made Jim Tetreault's job even more of an art and a science.

Tetreault is Ford's head of North American manufacturing.  He's responsible for maximizing the number of vehicles that any of the Detroit automaker's remaining plants can produce, while minimizing the downtime at each facility.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he wants four more years in office. He formally announced his campaign today. 

“I’m telling you folks … Lansing is on the verge,” the partisan crowd groaned, and then laughed, as Virg Bernero joked at his campaign kickoff.

Carlos Lowry / Flickr

  If you hear the word Europe, you might find yourself thinking of great places to travel, a rich history, or family roots.

If you're an auto executive and you hear “Europe,” you’ll likely sigh and take a couple of aspirin for your headache.

That's because the Detroit automakers stand to lose $4 billion in Europe this year. And with a collapse in auto sales across the pond, trying to muscle through the kinds of changes that saved the industry here in North America is a totally different challenge in Europe.

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com and Michigan Radio’s auto reporter Tracy Samilton discuss the bleak picture in Europe for Detroit automakers.

Listen to the full interview above.

wikimedia commons

VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Yankee Air Museum is kicking off a $6 million campaign to make its home at a former facility that built B-24 bombers during World War II.

Museum officials announced this week an effort to purchase and renovate part of the former Willow Run powertrain plant. The museum is housed at Willow Run Airport, near Ypsilanti in Wayne County's Van Buren Township.

Its original headquarters was destroyed by fire in 2004.

Dennis Norton, the founder and president of the Yankee Air Museum, has presented plans to Ypsilanti Township officials. The museum says it has until Aug. 1 to secure funding, and would buy the site from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust.

Ford Motor Co. built the plant for B-24 production. It later was taken over by General Motors.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council has approved a 12 year-four million dollar tax abatement for General Motors.

GM is planning a $38 million expansion to its Lansing Grand River assembly plant.  The expansion is expected to add 150 jobs to the plant.

GM currently makes its Cadillac ATS and CTS at the Lansing plant.   The automaker also plans to start producing its next generation Camaro at the Lansing plant.

1958 Chevrolet Impala.
GM

It has been one of the best selling cars of all time.

Since its inception in 1958, GM has sold more than 14 million Impalas (putting it in tenth place on 'best selling cars of all-time' lists).

It looked like this back then:

Today, the tenth version of the Impala is being made at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, and at the Oshawa Assembly plant in Canada.

Here's a photo of the new Impala rolling down the Oshawa assembly line:

GM

Two of the plants are in Michigan (Flint and Bay City), one in Toledo, and one in Bedford, Indiana.

The auto industry is working on squeezing more miles to the gallon out of the internal combustion engine, and that's what these investments are about.

The $332 million will go toward upgrading manufacturing plants to produce six and eight speed transmissions, small "Ecotech" engines, and a new V-6 engine.

GM recently announced that it will redesign, refresh or replace nearly 90 percent of its vehicles in the North American market between now and 2016.

In addition to the investments in Flint, Bay City, Toledo, and Bedford, IN, GM says it's also upping previously announced powertrain investments by $46 million. Plants in Romulus and Saginaw will see that investment.

From Ford's press release:

Since 2009, GM has announced nearly $1.8 billion of investments for the six Powertrain facilities.

“We are investing in technologies and manufacturing capabilities that produce high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles and components for our customers,” said Diana Tremblay, vice president of GM North American Manufacturing.  “Today’s announcement demonstrates GM’s commitment to growing the business and strengthening the plant communities where we receive so much support.”

GM says its investments won't lead to new jobs, but will retain 1,650 jobs at the facilities.

The plant in Flint will see the biggest investment. $215 million will be invested in the Flint Engine Operations plant for the 3 and 4 cylinder Ecotec gasoline engines.

Nathan Boomey of the Detroit Free Press reports Flint welcomes the news:

The investment marks a dose of good news for the Flint community after GM recently announced plans to shut down its Grand Blanc Weld Tool Center, displacing 343 employees...

“The investment we’re making is to obviously put in the required capacity or adjustment to the capacity to create more fuel-efficient products for our customers,” Jones said.

Boomey reports GM declined to reveal when the investments will occur, or what cars will receive the new engines and transmissions.

In their release, GM said the new "8-speed [transmissions] will be used in numerous GM vehicles by the end of 2016."

user paul (dex) / Flickr

General Motors says the car and truck buying public will be seeing big changes in the next few years when we walk into a GM showroom.
 
GM’s North America Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens recently told analysts that the automaker will redesign, refresh or replace nearly 90 percent of its vehicles in the North American market between now and 2016.

Is this strategy a matter of blazing new trails, or playing catch-up with the competition?

This is a two-sided story. Starting this year with 2011 models, the federal government’s fuel-economy standards, which have sat frozen for years, are going to get a big-time thaw. It's the biggest change since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law was created in 1975.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is considering spending nearly $40 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant.

On Monday, the Lansing city council will consider granting tax abatements to GM.

The abatements are tied to the automaker’s plan to spend $38 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant. The expansion would add about 150 jobs.

GM already makes its Cadillac ATS at the plant.   The ATS recently won the North American Car of the year award at the North American International Auto Show. 

Toyota has tapped a former executive at U.S. rival General Motors to be on its board, the first time in the Japanese automaker's 76-year history it is appointing board members from outside the company.

The appointment of Mark Hogan, effective April 1, is a key part of the sprawling management changes Toyota Motor Corp. announced Wednesday. They underline its efforts to grow more international, nimble, transparent and responsive to regional markets.

Toyota set up a new division called "No. 1" to oversee North American, European and Japanese markets, and another "No. 2" for emerging markets. It also promoted four non-Japanese managers to oversee regional businesses.

Besides Hogan, two Japanese, from insurance and securities sectors, were picked as outside board members. The board appointments require the approval of shareholders.

February was a good month for the Big 3.

The increase is a sign that U.S. auto sales remain strong even in an uneven economy.

General Motors

General Motors made nearly $5 billion in 2012.

That's down a lot from 2011, when the company made $7.6 billion.

But GM CEO Dan Akerson says it was a strong year for the company nonetheless.

He says G-M "planted the seeds of growth in every region of the world."

The Detroit automaker reduced its pension obligations, bought an international finance division, and put new cars in the pipeline for 2013 and beyond.

General Motors reported today it sold more than 300,000 vehicles in the month of January, 2013 - it's best month in China ever.

From a GM press release:

General Motors and its joint ventures sold more than 300,000 vehicles in a single month for the first time ever in China last month. January sales totaled 310,765 units, an increase of 26.0 percent from the same month in 2012 and 15.9 percent above the previous all-time monthly high of 268,035 units in January 2011.

Domestic sales by Shanghai GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling, and their Buick, Chevrolet and Wuling brands all set new single-month records as well in January.

The company wholly owns two foreign enterprises in China, and has 12 joint ventures.

It employs more than 55,000 people in China.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Judge says prisoners sentenced as juveniles should get parole hearings 

Judge John Corbett O'Meara says a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory no-parole sentences applies retroactively to Michigan inmates already behind bars.

There are more than 350 inmates in Michigan prisons serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, and there's been a lot of debate about whether these inmate should get a shot at parole.

The Detroit Free Press has the story of one of those prisoners this morning.

...life has never been simple for Jennifer Pruitt. Her 37 years have been punctuated by turmoil -- a tough upbringing, a life sentence for murder, repeated rapes in prison and glimmers of hope that quickly got dashed.

Road funding discussions get underway in Michigan legislature

In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder made roads a top priority. He called for new revenue to support road building. Whether that will mean higher taxes or higher fees for Michigan residents remains to be seen. Jonathan Oosting of MLive reports the discussions will get underway soon:

... a joint resolution introduced by Republican Sens. Randy Richardville, Roger Kahn and Bruce Caswell offers a simple starting point for discussions: A constitutional amendment to raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 8 percent. As a trade-off for the increased sales tax, a related bill would eliminate the state's 19-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax.

Such a tax increase would require voter approval. Other plans, such as increasing gas taxes or registration fees, are being considered as well.

Investment in Pontiac, GM plans expansion

General Motors announced its consolidating some of its research and development operations and expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports the company is expected to invest $200 million in the Pontiac facility.

GM estimates the move will move about 400 jobs now in various facilities to Pontiac. The investment is part of a GM commitment to invest $1.5 billion in North American facilities across the state and the country.

GM officials say employees will start transferring to Pontiac as soonas the middle this year, and the expansion will be completed in mid 2014.

GM

General Motors is expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac, and consolidating some major research and development operations there.

The company says investing $200 million in a new test wing there will allow them to bring work that’s being done all over the country under one roof, and move faster in developing next-generation powertrain technologies.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Good crowds at this years' Detroit auto show

Another North American International Auto Show has wrapped up, and ticket sales were up yet again. The show drew more than 795,000 people, the best crowd since 2004 according to Chevy dealer and NAIAS committee member Scott LaRiche.

"We have seen an actual spring board over the last few years, and we're slowly climbing up there towards that 800,000 mark, and realistically,if you look at it from the standpoint of the media that attended, over 5,500 media, we did break the 800,000 mark," said LaRiche.

Now the car companies are on to the Chicago for that cities auto show.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's trial continues after weekend jail stay

The Kilpatrick corruption trial continues after the former Detroit mayor had to spend the weekend in jail on a separate matter. From the Associated Press:

Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been released after spending the weekend in prison for violating parole in a 2008 conviction that booted him from office.

The Michigan Corrections Department says Kilpatrick violated parole by not disclosing all financial transactions last fall. He still owes Detroit $855,000 in restitution and must report details about his income and expenses.

Kilpatrick will go from jail to federal court where the corruption case against him and several of his associates has been going on since September.
  Toyota is King again
  The Detroit News says so:
  Now it's official: Toyota is once again the world's top automaker. 

Toyota Motor Corp. released its tally for global vehicle sales for last year Monday at a record 9.748 million vehicles — a bigger number than the estimate it gave last month of about 9.7 million vehicles.It was already clear Toyota had dethroned General Motors Co. as the Detroit-based automaker fell short, selling 9.29 million vehicles.

 GM first lost their top-selling title to Toyota in 2008, then GM regained the title in 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. 2012 showed that Toyota is up and running again.
  Since we're talking about this horse race, we should note that Volkswagen is close behind as the world's third largest automaker.

Jeff Kowalsky


For the average person, there's a lot of "wow" at the North American International Auto Show.

But for reporters and auto company executives, that "wow" can sometimes be more like "ow."

Especially during the impromptu, free-for-all press conferences that are known as "scrums."

Problem is, nobody tells you what a scrum is before you attend your first Detroit auto show.

They all wait until it's too late to back out. It's almost a kind of hazing.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

After General Motors bought 200 million shares back from the U.S. government last month, the government's stake in GM was down to about at 19 percent.

Today, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it has a "pre-arranged written trading plan" for selling its remaining 300.1 million shares of GM stock.

The process is expected to take place over the next year to 15 months ("subject to market conditions"), and will end almost four years of partial government ownership of the car maker.

GM / Facebook

In another blow to the Flint area, GM announced it will close its Weld Tool Center in Grand Blanc.

The plant is located just southeast of the city of Flint.

Workers at the plant make robotic welding tools used to build cars like the Chevy Cruze, the Volt, and the Sonic.

GM spokesman Tom Wickham said the plant's 323 hourly workers and 28 salaried workers will be offered jobs at other GM plants in the region, according to MLive:

The employees were notified this morning the plant would be shut down, Wickham said...

There are no immediate plans as to what the facility will be used for in the future, Wickham said.

Shaun Byron of MLive talked with some of the workers at the plant who were shocked by the news:

Brad Keskinen of Davison worked with GM since 1977 and at the Grand Blanc Township plant since 2007.

“I’m really disappointed. I thought we had a smart, productive workforce. But it’s evident that the work model was set up for failure,” Keskinen said. “And the announcement comes to a shock to us.”

GM recorded the 'economic impact' of the plant as follows:

  • Wages: $46.5 million (2011)
  • Payroll Taxes: $9.7 million (2011)
  • Property Taxes: $866,000 (2011)

Operations at the plant are expected to wind down in July of this year.

The plant was first built by the U.S. government in 1942. Sherman and Pershing tanks were built there.

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